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Is Any Project Ever Truly Successful?

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 21st February 2014

So many projects of all different types fail to live up to our initial expectations that you might wonder if any project could ever be considered successful when compared against the original expectations. At the start of a project there is usually a very clear idea of what should be achieved by the end of the project and most (but not all) projects are started with some measure of confidence in our abilities to pull it off.
Even without the ideal circumstances you are at least likely to have some of the things you need to complete the project successfully – skilled people to do the work, the right tools, some organisational skills and the time and budget required. So why do so many projects go wrong?
A project could be anything from installing a new kitchen, to developing a new software system, or building a new bridge or relocating a company from one office to another. Projects appear in our personal and business lives and major infrastructure projects can affect whole towns or regions so getting them right can have a major impact on many people.
Projects are rarely started with the anticipation of failure – usually it is quite the opposite – the project team and all the other people involved are full of optimism. But could it be this very optimism that is one of the causes of failure? In an eagerness to start a project often essential steps are skipped or not fully completed. So the areas to watch out for are:

  • Failure to define the scope of the work
  • Not being fully aware of the risks involved
  • Un-documented assumptions are made by certain people or groups involved
  • Costs and Time are underestimated
  • The benefits of the project are exaggerated
  • Different agendas by different people or groups involved
  • Failure to define what success is

Many projects are not complete disasters – they almost always deliver some end-product but it may not be exactly what the client wanted or it may meet their expectations but have cost more than predicted or taken much longer to complete.
Such failures in the management of projects results in clients having to accept less then they expected or pay more to achieve what they want. For a project to genuinely succeed and deliver what the client wants on-time and on-budget it needs to be planned and managed in detail at every step of the way. Milestones need to be set and stuck to. Whenever possible a professional project manager with the skills and experience necessary to keep the project on track should be in charge; a person not just with technical project management skills but one who can maintain the initial optimism of the project throughout its life. With the right person managing every stage of a project it is possible to achieve success.

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